EU SUPPORTS VISA LIBERALIZATION REGIME FOR GEORGIA

Published in Politics
Thursday, 22 September 2016 10:50

H.E. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia was once again reassured by H.E. Donald Tusk, President of the Council of Europe and Ms. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the EU support of Visa Liberalization of Georgia at the meeting held in New York today.
Prime Minister thanked the EU officials for their contribution in the process of the country's European integration and noted that authorities welcome the most dynamic development of relations with EU in recent years. In his opinion, Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic choice is irrevocable as confirmed and evidenced by the demonstrated commitment towards political association and economic integration of the country with EU, along with the effective implementation of the Association Agreement.
President of the Council of Europe and High Representative of EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy positively view the democratic reforms carried out in Georgia.
Discussion touched upon the General Elections of Georgia scheduled for October 2016. Prime Minister stressed that national authorities will ensure that they are held in compliance with international standards of democracy. Largest number of international observers are therefore invited to ensure the highest degree of transparency.

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  • DETAILS RELEASED OF GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT’S CAMPAIGN TO STRANGLE ANAKLIA PORT PROJECT

    Ruling Georgian Dream Party Reversed its Support for Vital Project,

    Wiping Out Economic Benefits for Georgia

    TBILISI, GEORGIA, 9 September, 2020 – The Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC), the company originally selected by the Government of Georgia to develop the strategic Anaklia Port Project, today shared additional details of the Government’s campaign, directed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, to undermine the project by dissuading potential project investors, lenders, contractors and suppliers from joining the project in order to kill it.

    The following statement is issued on behalf of the ADC Supervisory Board:

    All infrastructure projects of such scale require government support; namely the encouragement of lenders and investors, the assistance in permitting, regulatory approvals and a favorable tax regime, and providing any ancillary support; in this instance, the provision of land and the construction of road and rail infrastructure.  For a government to actually oppose an infrastructure project that it had itself approved is highly unusual in the global economy. 

    “The Georgian Government’s campaign to strangle ADC’s ability to develop the Anaklia Port Project represents a self-inflicted wound for itself and considerable injury to Georgia’s economy and its role in the region.

    “Taken together, the Georgian Government's specific actions are part of a deliberate and well-orchestrated campaign to destroy a project which the Government itself originally sponsored and endorsed, but subsequently chose to destroy as a result of what appear to be the political and economic self-interests of the Georgian Dream Party and its principals.

    “The Government manufactured all sorts of excuses for not wanting to see various investors, lenders and partners involved in the project, but the Government really only had one purpose:  to choke the project to death by scaring away everybody who might have an interest in supporting it.

    “Also, is it beyond coincidence that government ministers – including two Prime Ministers -- who voiced support for the project or otherwise expressed concern about the growing controversy with the project were tendering their resignations shortly after such comments were made?  

    “The damage to Georgia caused by the Government goes well beyond the potential loss of the Anaklia Port and the associated Special Economic Zone.  The conduct of the Government is scaring away investors at a time when Georgia cannot afford to lose any more foreign investment.  According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the amount of foreign direct investment in Georgia has fallen from nearly US$  2 billion in 2017 to just over US$ 1.3 billion in 2019, and in the first quarter of 2020, stood at only US$ 171.8 million[1] - a catastrophic decrease even before the Covid crisis began to take effect.  As Retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges of the Center for European Policy Analysis said, ‘the government only has itself to blame.’[2]

    Some examples of the Government’s efforts to strangle ADC and the Anaklia Port Project include:

    November, 2017

    • Georgian Dream party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili requested to meet with ADC to discuss the Anaklia Port Project and asserted that the expansion of Poti Port could achieve the same objectives of the Anaklia Port at a far lower cost. 

    June 2018

    • During a June 12 meeting of the Georgian Dream party, attended by more than 100 party officials, Party Leader Bidzina Ivanishvili personally blamed Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili for his actions in support of the Anaklia project and for having close ties to ADC investor Mamuka Khazaradze.  Mr. Kvirikashvili resigned the day after that meeting.

    October 2018

    • In February 2019 ADC learned that during an October 2018 meeting with senior U.S. State Department officials in Tbilisi, Mr. Giorgi Gakharia  (then Minister of Interior) advised the U.S. officials that the Anaklia Port project was not in Georgia’s interests.

    January 2019

    • SSA Marine, which was selected as the Anaklia Port operator and was a potential investor, alerted ADC of its concerns about what seemed to be the Government’s support of an expansion of the Poti Port.  (Following detailed studies sponsored by the Government back in 2013-14, it had been determined that Poti Port could never meet Georgia’s needs for a Deepwater Port, which is why the government itself selected Anaklia for development at that time.  The Government’s subsequent expressions of support for expansion at Poti was a clear signal to the lending and investment community that the Government was no longer supportive of Anaklia.)

    February 2019

    • A sovereign European development bank advised ADC that it had decided against supporting the project because of the negative actions of the Georgian Government, and the possible shift of support to the Poti Port.

    February 2019

    • Another sovereign European development bank advised ADC that it was withdrawing its support because one of its counterparts had just done so (above) due to the state’s apparent shift of support from Anaklia to Poti.

    March 2019

    • It has been reported that Infrastructure Minister Maya Tskitishvili, in ministerial hearings before Parliament, undermined SSA Marine as a potential investor and as the port operator, claiming the company lacked experience and financial capacity.  These assertions were not true. In the process of her speech, the minister also breached legal obligations of confidentiality that were associated with the investment agreement.

    April 2019

    • SSA Marine advised ADC that it was suspending its activities related to the Anaklia Port project.

    April 2019

    • Mr. Giorgi Kobulia, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, told “Forbes Week” that the negative public discussions and media reports of the Anaklia project were having a negative impact on the business climate within Georgia.  He subsequently resigned within days of the interview.

    May 2019

    • A major U.S. private equity firm which was in advanced negotiations with ADC to join the project revealed to ADC that Government officials warned the firm to stay away from the project.

    June 2019

    • Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, in a trade visit to the U.S., met separately with SSA Marine, the leadership of the U.S. private equity firm that were interested in investing in the project, and with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, D.C.  Secretary Pompeo expressed support for the Anaklia project with the prime minister standing next to him, saying it would “strengthen Georgia’s ties with free economies and not allow Georgia to be under the economic influence of Russia or China.”  Upon his return to Georgia, Mr. Bakhtadze resigned, and this again put the project in unchartered waters.

    September 2019

    • At a meeting in Tbilisi, a large Hong Kong-based private equity group with significant Central Asian transportation synergies that was considering joining the project was told bluntly by Infrastructure Minister Tskitishvili that the Government did not desire their participation in the project.  At this same meeting Ms. Tskitishvili reaffirmed the Government’s seeming opposition to SSA Marine’s involvement in the project.

    September 2019

    • Giorgi Volski, Vice Speaker of Parliament, falsely claimed that the Hong Kong private equity group mentioned above is a “Russian” company,  with the intention either of disparaging it or sowing further confusion about the government's position in respect of the project.

    September 2019

    • In a meeting between Prime Minister Gakharia and an Anaklia Supervisory Board member, Mr. Gakharia stated that “things had to get quiet” before he could reassure the major potential U.S. investor of the state’s support for the Anaklia Project, which the board member understood to be a condition that ADC and Mr. Khazaradze stop criticizing the government publicly on its opposition to the Anaklia Project, and the government would stop criticizing ADC.  
    • Also, the Supervisory Board was promised a letter of support to a U.S. investor from the highest levels of the Government, but this never materialized, even though ADC did comply with the Government’s request.

    September 2019

    • A delegation from the U.S. (in Tbilisi to participate in the 5th annual Tbilisi International Conference sponsored by the McCain Institute) met with new Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, and subsequently with Mamuka Khazaradze.  Representatives of the delegation told Mr. Khazaradze that Prime Minister Gakharia told them the Anaklia project was not commercially viable when this was patently not the case.

    October 2019:

    • Fadi Asly, chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, is quoted in the media saying, “No one will invest in Anaklia project as long as Bidzina Ivanishvili wants to destroy it.”

    Taken together, these are only a selection of the instances where the Government of Georgia actively undermined the project in an effort to prevent ADC from developing the project.  ADC intends to present evidence during the upcoming arbitration proceedings to demonstrate the degree to which the Government took such steps.

    Further details of the Anaklia Port project and ADC can be found at http://anakliadevelopment.com

     

  • David Zalkaliani has held a telephone conversation with Federica Mogherini

    Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani held a telephone conversation with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
    Discussing the ongoing processes in Georgia’s occupied regions, the sides paid special attention to the difficult human rights situation on the ground.
    The Georgian Foreign Minister informed the EU High Representative in detail about the recent developments across the occupation line, including the erection of artificial barriers by the Russian occupation forces in the vicinity of the village of Gugutiantkari and restriction of the local population’s right to free movement.
    Highlighting the European Union’s important role in pursuing the peaceful conflict resolution policy, the sides underscored the necessity to keep Georgia atop the international agenda.
    While on the theme of an increasing number of incidents across the occupation line, the sides stressed the need to discuss the aforementioned issues at the IPRM meetings, as well as within the framework of the Geneva International Discussions. Special note, in this light, was taken of the importance of the EU Special Representative’s visit to Georgia.
    David Zalkaliani thanked Federica Mogherini for the activities of the EUMM as the only international monitoring mechanism on the ground, which plays an important part in de-escalating the situation and further improving the security environment.
    The EU High Representative reaffirmed her support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

  • Document on the establishment of the Delegation of the European Union in Turkmenistan was signed in Ashgabat

    On the 6th of July 2019, a meeting was held in Ashgabat between the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission Ms. Federica Mogherini and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov.

    During the meeting, the parties discussed the intensification of the multilateral cooperation between the European Union and Turkmenistan.  The achievements gained in the bilateral political dialogue, economic and regional integration, as well as the effective promotion of cultural and humanitarian ties had been noted. 

    The parties discussed the key vectors of new EU Strategy for Central Asia where the vital role of regional cooperation, social and economic development, energy security, creation of pleasant investment climate and joint resolution of ecological problems is stated.  The parties also discussed important projects in the field of developing transport systems and regional energy infrastructure, including the construction of the gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India and stressed their commitment to the implementation of joint strategic goals.            

    After the talks, the parties signed the Agreement between the Government of Turkmenistan and the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community on the Establishment and the Privileges and Immunities of the Delegation of the European Union in Turkmenistan that became a meaningful event in the process of developing multilateral between Turkmenistan and the European Union.  

    Then, the heads of the external policy agencies of EU and Turkmenistan spoke at the briefing on the outcomes of the meeting, which was attended by the heads of the diplomatic missions and international organizations in Turkmenistan and local mass media.    

    First half of the day, Ms. Federica Mogherini was also received by the Chairwoman of the Parliament (Mejlis) of Turkmenistan. 

  • Eastern Partnership celebrates 10-year anniversary at high-level conference in Brussels

    On 14 May, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker hosted a high-level conference on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership.

    The conference brought together Heads of State or Government of the Eastern partner countries, foreign ministers of the EU Member States, civil society representatives, business leaders, young people and journalists from across the 34 countries. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, also participated in the event.

    “The Eastern Partnership is fundamentally a future-oriented partnership for the citizens and with the citizens; firmly focussed on what is important for them. Together we are working towards stronger economies, stronger governance, stronger connectivity and stronger societies”, said President Juncker. “We have put in place ambitious Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and citizens of these countries also benefit from visa free travel for short stays in the EU. 125,000 loans have been provided to businesses in the Eastern Partnership, of which half are in local currency, and we have contributed to the creation of over 30,000 jobs in the region. And our trade has increased with each of the six Eastern Partnership countries, which together are the EU’s 10th trading partner. I would like us to continue to focus on the content of what we believe we should do together so that our Partnership can keep its promises.”

    The conference’s participants discussed the developments of the partnership during this first decade and exchanged views on its future.

    Ten years ago, in May 2009, the Heads of State or Government and representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine gathered with high-level EU officials in Prague to strengthen mutual ties of friendship and cooperation and to launch a strategic and ambitious partnership, as a specific dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy to be developed alongside bilateral cooperation.

    This joint endeavour, in an effort to build a more prosperous, resilient, stable and democratic region, was based on shared values, mutual interests and commitments, bringing the Eastern partner countries closer to the EU and developing stronger ties among the partner countries themselves, for the benefit of all.

  • 5th Association Council Discusses EU Integration and Emphasizes Excellent Georgia-EU Relations

    The 5th Association Council Meeting, chaired by Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, discussed 2018 Association Implementation Report on Georgia and positively assessed the state of the EU-Georgia relations.

    The sides reaffirmed their continued commitment to advance Georgia's deeper political association and economic integration with the EU. Both sides acknowledged Georgia's European aspirations, its European choice and the common objective to continue building a democratic, stable and prosperous country. The Association Council took note of Georgia's "Roadmap 2EU" which aims at enhancing Georgia's integration with the EU.

    Both sides reaffirmed their continued commitments to bring tangible benefits to the lives of Georgian citizens in line with the Association Agenda's four key areas of cooperation: economic development and market opportunities; strengthening institutions and good governance; connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change; enhancing mobility and people-to-people contacts.

    The Association Council welcomed the fact that the Presidential elections, on 28 October and 28 November 2018, were held in an overall competitive environment. It also acknowledged some shortcomings and agreed on the importance of addressing all OSCE/ODIHR recommendations in order to further strengthen the environment favorable for the democratic conduct of elections, especially in view of the parliamentary elections in 2020. The Association Council welcomed the entry into force of the revised Constitution in December 2018 which concluded Georgia's transition to a full parliamentarian system. The Association Council encouraged all political actors to work together and to maintain an open dialogue, including with civil society, in order to further strengthen democratic institutions, consolidate pluralistic democracy in Georgia and advance reforms. Both sides stressed the need to continue the successful cooperation established between the EU and Georgia on Strategic Communication and countering disinformation.

    The Association Council welcomed the progress made over the year by Georgia in the implementation of comprehensive reforms in the rule of law; it also noted some areas where further progress was needed and encouraged Georgia to move ahead with the 4th wave of judiciary reform and to continue strengthening its judicial institutions by upholding, inter alia, transparency and meritocracy in the appointment of judges. The EU underlined its commitment to continue assisting Georgia in its efforts to further reform the judiciary and safeguard the rule of law.

    The Association Council welcomed that a great number of Georgian citizens have benefited from short term visa free travel with Schengen countries. It welcomed continuous efforts of the Georgian Government to address violations of the visa-free travel requirement and encouraged Georgia to continue its commitment to counter the increased numbers of unfounded asylum seekers in some Schengen countries. The EU encouraged Georgia to further enhance cooperation with the EU Member States to fight against irregular migration and organized crime.

    The Association Council welcomed progress made in the implementation of the Human Rights Strategy and its Action Plan, as well as the establishment of Human Rights Protection Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The EU recognized Georgia's efforts and encouraged to continue preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, gender based violence, as well as promoting gender equality, including by strengthening national institutional capacities. The Council stressed the commitment to the universality of human rights for all, regardless of religion or belief, race, sex, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or other. The Association Council commended Georgia on the adoption of the law on Occupational Health and Safety applying to all spheres of economic activity and encouraged Georgia to continue its work to create an effective labor inspection system in order to further improve working conditions.

    Both sides welcomed the progress made by Georgia in the implementation of the Association Agreement, including its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). The EU continued to be the most important partner of Georgia; the total bilateral trade amounted to EUR 2.76 billion in 2018. The EU invited Georgia to identify concrete products having export potential to the EU, on the basis of which assistance will be provided. Both sides welcomed successful implementation of structural reforms and underlined the importance of ongoing reforms related to the improvement of the investment climate in Georgia.

    The Association Council welcomed the first disbursement of the Macro-Financial Assistance to Georgia in December 2018 and encouraged Georgia to continue the implementation of outstanding agreed policy measures in order to enable the disbursement of the second installment. The EU encouraged Georgia to ensure sustainability of the already implemented reforms and maintain macro-economic stability.

    The Association Council reiterated Georgia's strategic role in the field of energy, transport and connectivity and increasingly as a transportation and logistics hub in the region. The EU committed to continue engaging closely with Georgia on the connectivity agenda and on the further extension of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). The Association Council welcomed the first EU-Georgia High Level Transport Dialogue on 29 January 2019. Both sides also highlighted the importance of Black Sea cooperation as a step towards enhancing connectivity and international trade between Europe and Asia.

    The Association Council reiterated Georgia's key role as a partner for European energy security and stressed the country's transit role for Caspian hydrocarbon resources to reach European markets, notably via the Southern Gas Corridor and the Black Sea. The EU stressed its commitment to further support the roll-out of energy efficiency standards in public buildings, based on legislative reforms in key areas. The EU reiterated its continuous support for reinvigorating Georgia's agriculture and rural sector to improve living conditions in rural areas as well as to boost export opportunities through better food safety systems. The Association Council noted the importance of enhanced cooperation in the area of civil protection. The EU welcomed the successful implementation of the first European School in Tbilisi as a crucial milestone in the EU's relations with its Eastern partner countries and Georgia's commitment to education reforms.

    The EU acknowledged the importance of EU-Georgia cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy and underlined that Georgia continued consolidating its position of a strategic partner of the EU in the region. The Association Council reflected on the issues discussed during the second EU-Georgia Strategic Security Dialogue that took place October on 23 October 2018. The EU expressed appreciation for Georgia's continued contribution to EU-led crisis management operations and missions in the Central African Republic and the Republic of Mali, as well as readiness to support strengthening of Georgia's respective capacities.

    The EU reiterated its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. The EU reiterated its firm commitment to peaceful conflict resolution in Georgia by using all instruments at its disposal including the policy of non-recognition and engagement. The EU delegation, led by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, emphasized that the work of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, and the extension of the mandate of the EU Monitoring Mission demonstrate this strong commitment.

    The Association Council stressed the crucial importance of the Geneva International Discussions for addressing and resolving the challenges stemming from the conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008. It also reiterated that full and effective Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) is essential for addressing the safety and humanitarian needs of conflict-affected population on the ground. In this regard, the Council emphasized the urgency of resuming the Gali IPRM without preconditions.

    The Association Council was deeply concerned with the continued implementation of so-called "treaties" signed between the Russian Federation and Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, as well as with other illegal activities of Russia in these regions, in violation of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, including intensified military build-up, installation of barbed wire fences and artificial barriers along the administrative boundary lines, closure of "crossing points" and restriction of freedom of movement. The Association Council expressed concern over deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in both Georgian regions, with particular emphasis on ethnic discrimination of Georgians, prohibition of education in native language, and deprivation of life of Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoria. In this regard, the Association Council reiterated that justice should be applied.

    The Association Council reiterated the obligation for the Russian Federation to fulfil its international obligations including under the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, notably to withdraw its military forces from the territory of Georgia and remove all impediments for establishment of international security mechanisms therein. The Association Council further urged the Russian Federation to provide EUMM access to the whole territory of Georgia, in line with the mandate of the Mission. The Council stressed the obligation to ensure safe and dignified return of all internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes.

    The Association Council stressed the importance of increasing support to people-to-people contacts and confidence building measures across the divides. In this respect, the Association Council expressed support for the Georgian peace initiative "A Step to a Better Future".

    The EU commended Georgia's active participation in the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership and underlined that continued reform efforts in the partner countries are key to the success of the Eastern Partnership and to the EaP 10th anniversary celebrations scheduled for this year.

    Prime Minister's Press Office

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